Bridging Academia and Industry: How Geographic Hubs Connect University Science and Corporate Technology

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Innovative firms rely increasingly on academic science, yet they exploit only a small fraction of all academic discoveries. Which discoveries in academia do firms build upon? We posit that hubs play the role of bridges between academic science and corporate technology. Tracking citations from patents to approximately 10 million academic articles, we find that hubs facilitate the flow of academic science into corporate inventions in two ways. First, hub-based discoveries in academia are of higher quality and are more applied. Second, firms—in particular young, innovative, science-oriented ones—pay disproportionate attention to hub-based discoveries. We address concerns regarding unobserved heterogeneity by confirming the role of firms’ attention to hub-based science in a set of 147 simultaneous discoveries. Importantly, hubs not only facilitate localized knowledge flow but also extend the geographic reach of academic science, attracting the attention of distant firms.

This paper was accepted by Ashish Arora, entrepreneurship and innovation.

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